Brett Cooper (Dave Mandel/Sherdog)Bellator 122: Cooper vs. Halsey Preview and Predictions Sal DeRose July 22, 2014 Events, Previews, Spotlight Bellator MMA is set to put on the second show of its Summer Series event when Bellator 122 rolls into the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, Calif., on July 25. The lineup features the middleweight and welterweight tournament finals in the main and co-main events of the evening, along with the light heavyweight tournament semifinal matches. In the middleweight tournament final, it will be Brett Cooper looking to get a second shot at middleweight champion Alexander Shlemenko. Cooper will go up against Brandon Halsey, who will look to steal that title shot. In the welterweight division, the tournament final will be contested between Andrey Koreshkov and Adam McDonough. One of the light heavyweight tournament semifinals will air on the preliminary card, which will be streamed live on Spike.com beginning at 7 p.m. ET, while the other semifinal bout will kick off the main card of Bellator 122, which airs live on Spike TV at 9 p.m. ET. The main card features the tournament semifinal between Liam McGeary and Egidijus Valavicius. Meanwhile, semifinalists Kelly Anundson and Philipe Lins are relegated to the prelims. Bellator is also delivering a nostalgia fight that will be contested between two UFC vets, Karo Parisyan and Phil Baroni, to round out the main card. Now, let’s jump into the predictions for Bellator 122. MW Tournament Final: Brett Cooper (20-9) vs. Brandon Halsey (6-0) The middleweight final between Brett Cooper and Brandon Halsey is the second tournament final on the card, and it will produce a contender for the current champion, Shlemenko. This is a four-man tournament, as opposed to the normal eight-man format, and as such, Cooper only has had one fight since his previous title shot. Cooper was granted his previous shot after Doug Marshall dropped out due to injury and couldn’t follow through on his earned title shot. Since coming up short against Shlemenko, Cooper broke his two-fight losing streak against UFC vet Kendall Grove. It took almost two full rounds for Cooper to knock out The Ultimate Fighter winner. Cooper is a grinding fighter who owns 13 knockout victories. Halsey is a powerful NCAA Division I wrestler, which should provide a hint about his game plan here. Cooper will most likely look to keep the fight on the feet while Halsey will look to tear him down to the ground. Halsey took a decision from Joe Pacheco in his previous fight to get here. Halsey’s fight with Hector Ramirez at Bellator 106 was his standout performance. The 27-year-old took Ramirez down and was able to quickly take his back, finishing off Ramirez with a ton of punches. If Halsey can repeat that performance, it can certainly be a tough night for Cooper. While this is seemingly a tale of two guys who excel in different areas—Cooper with striking and Halsey with wrestling—Cooper gets the edge in this fight. He has the experience and is a more well-rounded fighter. Halsey, much like Bubba Jenkins (who pops up later in this preview), has the potential to excel in Bellator, but this fight goes to Cooper by decision. WW Tournament Final: Andrey Koreshkov (16-1) vs. Adam McDonough (11-0) The co-main event of Bellator 122 pits Andrey Koreshkov against Adam McDonough in a welterweight battle to see who gets the next title shot at 170 pounds. It’ll be a tough battle for both guys. Koreshkov finds himself in yet another welterweight tournament final and a step away from another title shot. He is 16-1. That lone loss came in his first and only title shot against then Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren. “The Spartan” is a heavy hitter and has a striking arsenal that is cause concern for opponents. Just take his latest win over Justin Baesman at Bellator 118, in which he knocked Baesman out with a flying knee. The 23-year-old welterweight has also spent a combined 2:22 inside the cage thus far in the tournament with both of his wins coming within the first two minutes, including his quarterfinal win. McDonough has shown himself to be a very talented fighter in all departments. The former collegiate wrestler has made striking a key part of his game. McDonough rocked Nathan Coy not once, but twice in his last fight and was able to earn a knockout victory. Whatever the actual outcome is, we’re in for a good fight. There will be no losers for those who watch this one. Koreshkov has the experience of being in a tournament final and he has faced some good fighters with Bellator, and the experience edge will lead him to a TKO victory in the third round. WW: Phil Baroni (15-17) vs. Karo Parisyan (23-10, 1 NC) We must have somehow flown back in time to 2005, for we get to see Karo Parisyan and Phil Baroni. Great Scott, is this a nostalgia fight to bring MMA fans back a decade. This will be Parisyan’s third fight under the Bellator banner and Baroni’s first. Parisyan is, of course, a judo expert. Judo is his specialty, his bread and butter. He will certainly look to take Baroni down from close range with throws and trips. Parisyan has slowed down in recent years, despite only being 31 years old. Most people are still in their athletic prime at that age, but Parisyan slipped past that point some time ago. The good news for him is that Baroni doesn’t have a gas tank. Parisyan can easily grind out the win if he gets Baroni down to the mat and the fight goes past the first round. Baroni will seek the early knockout to avoid pushing his gas tank to the limit. The longer the fight goes, the less chance he has of winning. However, this is a very winnable fight for either guy. Baroni has strong hands when he has the energy to wing a punch and Parisyan hasn’t been a guy who can typically stand up to powerful strikers. Just take his loss to Rick Hawn, for example. Hawn has punching power and Parisyan eventually suffered the knockout loss in the second round. Baroni has only won two fights since 2008. Parisyan takes it by submission in the third round. LHW Tournament Semifinal: Liam McGeary (7-0) vs. Egidijus Valavicius (27-10) After the first half of the light heavyweight tournament final match-up is decided on the preliminary card, the second half will be settled on the main card when Liam McGeary squares off with Egidijus Valavicius. Both guys are finishers—McGeary’s wins all came by either knockout or submission and Valavicius has only gone the distance eight times in 37 fights. McGeary is undefeated and could be considered one of the top prospects in Bellator. He has only gone past the first round twice in his career. So far in his stint with Bellator, none of his fights have gone past the 90-second mark. McGeary has spent a grand total of 3:38 inside the cage in his four Bellator contests. He advanced to the semifinals with a 22-second knockout of Mike Mucitelli at Bellator 118. McGeary has the striking skills to compete in Bellator’s light heavyweight division and moving to Tom’s River to train at Renzo Gracie’s camp will certainly help turn him from a prospect into a well-rounded fighter to fear. With 30 more fights than McGeary, Valavicius has a ton more experience. He is tested in this sport and already has a fight with another Bellator light heavyweight, Attila Vegh. Much like McGeary, Valavicius has heavy hands. His power makes this a fight to watch, as both guys could conceivably end this within the first two minutes. McGeary’s time spent training at Renzo Gracie’s gym will certainly help out his ground game. McGeary should look to Valavicius’s quarterfinal match against Carlo Eduardo and try to emulate the first round of that fight. Takedowns will be a key if McGeary wants to absolutely secure this fight and not stick to his finishing skills, which could land him in some hot water with a fighter like Valavicius. McGeary finishes the fight in the second round. Preliminary Card LHW Tournament Semifinal: Kelly Anundson (8-2) vs. Philipe Lins (9-0) Philipe Lins made it to the semifinals with a submission victory over Austen Heidlage at Bellator 121. He has some quality striking skills and good coaching in his corner from the Nova Uniao camp in Brazil. Not only is Lins a good striker, but he’s also a skilled grappler who has earned three submission victories. He is a very well-rounded fighter and a tough opponent. Anundson’s best asset is his wrestling base. His neck-crank submission victory over Volkan Oezdemir at Bellator 115 shows his overall grappling skills are farther reaching than just his wrestling base. Lins by decision. LW: Stephen Martinez (10-2) vs. Sergio Rios (7-0) This will be Sergio Rios’ first fight for Bellator, and Stephen Martinez will be the man to welcome him to the promotion. Rios has slick jiu-jitsu—look him up on YouTube if you have the time. He has five submission victories, all of which came in the first round. Martinez also has some impressive submission stats, with eight submission victories in his MMA career. Both guys clearly have grappling games, making this a very interesting match on the mat. Rios by decision. HW: Dmitriy Sosnovskiy (8-0) vs. Manny Lara (4-4) Manny Lara has had a tough go of it in Bellator so far. In four fights under the promotion’s banner, he is 0-3 with one no-contest. Dmitriy Sosnovskiy is a different beast. He has achieved an undefeated record and captured his most recent win over Aleksander Emelianenko. Sosnovskiy is another one in a long line of Russian prospects to arrive in Bellator in the past few years. He has six finishes on his record, and he’ll add a seventh when he stops Lara via TKO in the second stanza. LW: Joe Duarte (10-3) vs. Saad Awad (15-6) Joe Duarte and Saad Awad, a pair of lightweights, fought in 2011. Then it was Duarte taking the armbar victory over Awad in Strikeforce. Now, Awad looks like the superior fighter. He has proven himself over the course of two tournaments, where he made it at least as far as the semifinals. Awad was dominated in his last fight against Will Brooks, though. He had no answer for the wrestling of Brooks. Duarte will look to make a repeat of that first performance and bring the fight to the ground. Problem is, Duarte hasn’t fought in two years and ring rust could certainly play a factor. Awad should claim the decision victory, but don’t be surprised if Duarte pulls off the submission finish. WW: Fernando Gonzalez (20-12) vs. Karl Amoussou (17-6-2) Karl Amoussou is 5-3 in Bellator, but he has hit on hard times. His last fight was a split decision win, but he dropped his previous two fights. Those stumbles came after an impressive tournament victory that concluded with an awesome heel-hook finish to win his title shot. Amoussou is certainly looking to rebound in this fight and regain the footing he once held. He wants to get back into the welterweight tournament. Fernando Gonzalez is riding a two-fight losing streak and is taking on some good competition in Amoussou. It’s tough to pick against Amoussou, given his experience in the tournament and the level of competition he has faced. Amoussou by decision. LW: Poppies Martinez (29-9) vs. Bubba Jenkins (6-1) Bubba Jenkins is another exciting prospect on this card. He has excellent wrestling stemming from his time as an NCAA Division I wrestler and an NCAA national champion at 157 pounds. His wrestling will be a big key in this fight, but he will be tested by Poppies Martinez, a grizzled veteran who knows how to submit his foes. Martinez owns 16 submission victories, and he could pose a real threat against the wrestler. However, Jenkins will pick up another victory. He’ll avoid submissions while working his wrestling and top control to claim the decision. LHW: Linton Vassell (13-3) vs. Virgil Zwicker (12-3) Virgil Zwicker has some heavy hands and will certainly be looking to land them on Linton Vassell to end this fight early. Zwicker owns nine knockout victories and is on a two-fight winning streak. Both of his recent wins came via knockout, including one at Bellator 99. Vassell is another finisher, but instead of being adept at finishing in just one area, Vassell has six wins by submission and five by knockout. Vassell finished Trevor Carlson by rear-naked choke at Bellator 114. He is a more well-rounded fighter, which is the difference maker in this affair. More avenues to win equals a pick for Vassell, who takes this fight by submission in the second frame. HW: Matt Frembling (9-2) vs. Augusto Sakai (6-0) Augusto Sakai is making his return to Bellator. Sakai’s last two fights have gone past the first round, which is a change of pace for him after his first four bouts ended in the first round. Sakai’s strength lies in his ability to get the knockout, as he has done on five occasions. Matt Frembling has more experience, and the most recognizable name on his resume is Tim Sylvia, who handed him a loss. Frembling has six finishes on his record, but he could see his current six-fight winning streak snapped. Sakai scores a first-round knockout victory.